Two incumbents on the Board of Supervisors and another six candidates for the Dulles, Potomac, Sterling and Sugarland Run districts deliberated over Loudoun's issues Oct. 16 at the League of Women Voters Candidates Forum.
Dulles District candidates Stephen Snow (R) of South Riding and John Murphy, Jr. (D) of Ashburn were the first to give their opening remarks and answer questions from three panelists and the audience during the two-hour forum. They are vying for the seat currently filled by Drew Hiatt (R), who is stepping down at the end of the year for the 2000-03 term.
Snow said he considers himself a fiscal conservative in favor of lower taxes and less government. "I stand for fiscal responsibility and accountability," he said, explaining that he favors a zero-based budget and a review of county spending.
Snow finds that the board-adopted Revised Comprehensive Plan, a document outlining the county's growth for the next 20 years, fails to "put people first" in favor of rural and special interests, he said. "You can't paint over rust. The plan is a guide."
Murphy, At-large Planning Commissioner, supports the plan and does not plan to make cuts, he said. "The tax rate is the same as when the board took office at $1.11," he said, adding that he will aim to build the county's business base that in turn will reduce the burden on property taxes. "I'm not willing to cut public safety. I don't want to see classroom size increase," he said.
SUGARLAND RUN District candidates William Bogard (I), incumbent and D.M. "Mick" Staton, Jr., both of Sterling, spoke next.
"I'm here for the long haul. I'm here now and I'll be here after the election," said Bogard, a 17-year Loudoun resident, in his opening remarks.
Staton mentioned that spending and taxes are up and considers the two issues along with growth to be his priorities for the 2004-07 term. "The Comprehensive Plan has created an east-west divide," he said. "Growth has shifted to the eastern one-third of the county. ... We need a fair and balanced plan that protects the east and west. We need everyone to have a say in what our new plan should be."
Staton criticized the board for approving more rezonings of property in the county than has the previous board. "Every time you approve a rezoning, you're adding homes into the plan," he said.
"It's as if the world didn't exist before four years ago," Bogard said in response, adding that the current and previous boards removed 160,000 housing units from the county's planning documents. He wants to see residential and commercial growth placed where infrastructure and mass transit already exist, not in the country, he said. And he wants to see developers take on more social responsibility by increasing the number of affordable housing units in their projects.
The candidates answered a question about the handling of the county's budget. Staton said he supports an independent audit of the budget and mentioned county treasurer Roger Zurn saying that the last audit was conducted 10 years ago. "The Board of Supervisors need to be more involved in how and where money is spent," he said.
In response, Bogard said the county's use of an inspector general office did not work and that the county does not receive budget projections from the state "early in the process."
THE NEXT TWO candidates to speak were Eugene Delgaudio (R), incumbent for the Sterling district, and challenger Douglas Reimel (D), both of Sterling Park.
"I'm tired of seeing us ignored and forgotten," Reimel said in his opening remarks, adding that Sterling Park's issues are not being "addressed by government."
Delgaudio mentioned voting against every tax hike and opposing the sales tax referendum in his remarks.
A panelist asked Delgaudio and Reimel to explain the role of the supervisor. Delgaudio said he goes door to door, holds weekly meetings, provides quarterly surveys and sends out e-mail updates. Reimel mentioned knocking on 5,000 doors in the past three months and views the supervisor's role as a "community advocate," he said. "A locally elected supervisor must always be available to listen to concerns of citizens. ... We need somebody who cares about our community."
Reimel plans to work against "density packing" of the east, he said in reference to claims that the county's Revised Comprehensive Plan is pushing most of the county's future growth into the eastern end of the county. "There's not much open land in the Sterling Park area."
Instead, Reimel wants to see the county revitalize Sterling Park and develop the shopping centers and government facilities into a town square, he said. "We don't have a gathering place," he said.
Delgaudio claimed to be the only candidate to oppose the Revised Comprehensive Plan and considers himself to be the board's whistle blower. The board has been out of control, and "I'm the one who brought that to the public's attention," he said. Plus, "there's no management on the budget on a fiscal basis," he said.
CANDIDATES Bruce Tulloch (R) of Potomac Falls and Afeefa Syeed (D) of Sterling are vying to serve in the new Potomac District, which covers Countryside, Cascades and Broad Run Farms.
Tulloch considers himself a "community activist" and Syeed a grass-roots candidate and not a "career politician."
"What I'm going to do on day one is open the door and listen," Tulloch said. "I can build bridges between parties. ... We've been beating up on the business community too much. Roads in this county are paid for by developers and the state."
Syeed wants to hold monthly community forums to find out residents' concerns and issues. "That comes from being on the ground with people," she said. "There's a connection to be made from the people to the board."
Both candidates support a zero-based budget. Syeed agrees with the direction of the current board but wants to see the county achieve sustainable growth while maintaining fiscal responsibility, she said. "Before we have growth, we must have infrastructure," she said. "We need to look at growth and what we're developing. Some districts are developed out."
In Potomac, "we're mostly built out," Tulloch said. "Sustainability is reasonable growth. It's doing the responsible thing."
In addition, Tulloch wants to "cut out the fat and put money where it needs to be," along with bringing "financial responsibility back to the budget," he said.